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Ryan Fox continues sporting dynasty with Seve Ballesteros Award

Ryan Fox continues sporting dynasty with Seve Ballesteros Award

Ryan Fox receiving the Seve Ballesteros Award, after being voted the DP World Tour’s Player of the Year for 2022, caps a remarkable 12 months worthy of a man from a family with a renowned sporting pedigree.

His grandfather on his mother's side was Merv Wallace, a two-time captain of New Zealand's Test cricket team who saw the outbreak of the Second World War limit his Test career to just 13 caps.

Most informed observers believe he would have won many more were it not for the war, and Wallace also went on to coach New Zealand in the mid-1950s.

Fox is not wanting for sporting genes on his paternal side either, with father Grant winning 46 caps for the All Blacks and being part of the team that won the inaugural rugby union World Cup in 1987.

He was just short of five months old when his dad lifted the Webb Ellis Cup on home soil in Auckland and while he admits his memories of Fox Snr's playing career are sparse, sport was in Fox's blood from a young age.

"One of my first ever memories that I can remember was my grandad - my mum's dad - bowling to me in the backyard," he wrote for the DP World Tour's Player Blog in 2017.

"I have vivid memories from when I was three or four of him bowling to me in the garden and teaching me how to pick the different type of spin deliveries - the wrong-un, the leg spinner, the off spinner.

"He wasn't a bowler, he was a batter, but he was really keen to teach me the art of watching the ball out of the bowler's hand. So, I suppose, right from the start, I was getting to grips with some hand-eye co-ordination."

Fox had plastic children's golf clubs as well but growing up, it was mainly cricket and rugby, with cricket his "first real sporting love".

By the time he got to university, however, having already given up rugby after "a few too many concussions", cricket was no longer at the forefront of his ambitions and his sporting attention switched to golf.

Already playing off two, he hired his first coach and, with his dad on the bag, he set off on a career that would see him turn professional in 2012.

He has admitted there were tough spells in those early years and he was almost ready to give up the game in 2013 before a talk with his dad and a change of approach led to a fifth-placed finish at the Australian Masters, where Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar and Vijay Singh made up the top three.

With his card secured, Fox did not look back on his home PGA Tour of Australasia, winning the Western Australian Open in 2014 and the Queensland PGA Championship in 2015.

A Major Championship debut came at The Open Championship in July 2015, with Fox finishing in a tie for 49th after coming through qualifying, and just a week after starring at St Andrews, he won his first European Challenge Tour title at the Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge.

But there was to be heartbreak at the end of the campaign as he finished 16th on the Rankings, missing out on a DP World Tour card by just one spot.

Ryan and Grant Fox

Fox admits it took him around six months to get over that disappointment and after playing the first half of 2016 with limited starts on the DP World Tour, he returned to the Challenge Tour in June, registering two top tens and winning the Tayto Northern Ireland Open in Partnership with Ulster Bank the following month.

There would be no heartbreak this time around as he finished fourth in the Rankings to graduate and he soon defined himself on the DP World Tour as a man for the big stage.

He had five top tens in his maiden season, with three of them coming in consecutive Rolex Series events in July as he comfortably kept his playing privileges.

More Rolex Series drama was to follow in 2018 as Russell Knox holed a 40-footer to get into a play-off against Fox at the Irish Open and then another to win it, but a maiden victory was not far away.

A 3&2 victory over Adrian Otaegui brought him a win close to home at the 2019 ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth but within two years, everything would change.

First came the Covid-19 pandemic, which meant that Fox did not play between the WGC - Mexico Championship and the Betfred British Masters in 2020, a hiatus of almost exactly five months.

When he arrived back on Tour in the UK - without wife Anneke, who stayed in New Zealand - he embarked on a schedule of 11 events in 12 weeks as he aimed to earn enough points to secure himself a second Olympics appearance.

He did just that but with the Games suspended for a year, he returned to New Zealand in October and on December 18 became a father with the birth of daughter Isabel.

The 2021 season then became both a balancing act and a lottery as he sought to play enough events to keep his card while also enabling himself to get home with strict entry and quarantine requirements in New Zealand.

After playing the Desert Swing, he returned home but was back in May, although Anneke and Isabel did not join him until July at The Open.

"It worked really well, and to be honest my mental state changed pretty significantly the week of The Open," he wrote in a second Player Blog in October 2021.

"Having them with me, and able to travel with me, made a massive difference to my year."

With his card secured and a managed isolation and quarantine spot secured, the Foxes headed home after the Mallorca Golf Open in October, with Ryan facing a hotel quarantine for the third time.

Heading in to 2022, much of the world was returning to normal, although Fox knew he would face another spell of quarantine when he next went home.

But at least he would be able to spend this one with a recent memory of victory as it came soon after he claimed his long-awaited second title at the Ras Al Khaimah Classic. It was a win that would kickstart his remarkable 2022.

He led wire-to-wire at Al Hamra Golf Club as he sealed a comfortable five-shot victory and was delighted to return to New Zealand to see his family, having missed Isabel's first steps while he was away.

"I was definitely thinking about the family coming down the last couple of holes, it's pretty big for them," he said after his win. "They've got to come over to Europe every year and it's a little bit harder with a little one now and this win makes it a little bit easier for them to do that.

"I'm a bit disappointed that I missed her walking and I've got ten days in a hotel when I get home to think about that as well and I'm very much looking forward to seeing them when I get out late February."

After two months at home, he returned to the DP World Tour and hit a run of consistency that would keep him right in the hunt to top the Rankings until the end of the season.

He would secure six top tens in eight events, including finishing second at the Soudal Open, Dutch Open - after losing a play-off - and Horizon Irish Open.

That form cooled throughout the heat of summer but, in early October, Fox was a winner again, claiming an emotional one-shot victory on the Old Course at St Andrews at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in front of his mum, dad, Anneke and Isabel.

The win was made even more poignant as Fox turned his thoughts to former team event partner and Australian cricketing great Shane Warne, who passed away in March.

"It means a lot," he said. "To be honest the only person I can really think of at the moment is Warne.

"He meant a lot to me and this event and was a great mate. It's a terrible shame he's not here.

"I'm going to enjoy celebrating this one with the family."

A tie for fourth at the Mallorca Golf Open and a second place at the Nedbank Golf Challenge meant Fox headed into the season-ending DP World Tour Championship with a chance to win it all, although the then 35-year-old took it all in his stride.

"I won't do anything different from what I've been doing all year," he said. "Just go out and try to beat the golf course and see what happens in that sense and that's served me pretty well and hopefully I can do the same thing this week."

A 19th-paced finish at Jumeirah Golf Estates saw Fox finish the season second in the Rankings behind Rory McIlroy, with two wins, four runner-up finishes and four other top tens after a stunning season.

He teed off in Abu Dhabi 205th in the Official World Ranking and picked the ball out of the cup on Sunday at the Earth Course ranked 27th, earning himself a debut at the 2023 Masters Tournament.

That is just one of many things that Fox will have to look forward to in the year ahead but looking back, the history books will always see 2022 as the season he was voted by his fellow members as the winner of the Seve Ballesteros Award.

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